Forget the Stanley Cup. This team might contend for the gold medal at Sochi in 2014.
The Penguins have acquired all-star right winger Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames in exchange for right winger prospect Ben Hanowski, left winger Kenny Agostino and a first-round pick in 2013.
Iginla, 35, has appeared in 31 games this season and has scored 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists). A six-time all-star, Iginla has won the Art Ross Trophy (2001-02) as the NHL's leading overall scorer and the Rocket Richard Trophy twice (2001-02 and 2003-04) as the NHL's top goal-scorer.
The longtime captain of the Flames, he is that franchise's career leader in games (1,219), goals (525) and points (1,095). A first-round pick of the Dallas Stars in 1995, Iginla has spent his entire 16-year career with the Flames.
Iginla (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) has been a member of three Olympic teams for Canada and won gold medals with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux in 2002 and current captain Sidney Crosby (right) in 2010.
In the final year of a contract with a $7 million cap hit, Iginla is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Iginla was a healthy scratch Wednesday night during the Flames' 4-3 win against the Avalanche. He had a streak of consecutive games played snapped at 441.
Earlier Wednesday evening, reports had Iginla all but going to the Bruins but as Flames general manager Jay Feaster alluded to, Iginla, who has a no-trade clause, chose the Penguins.
Hanowski, 22, was the Penguins third-round pick (63rd overall) in the 2009 draft and is in his senior season at St. Cloud State. In 34 regular season game, he has 29 points (16 goals, 13 assists).
Agostino, 20, was a fifth-round pick (140th overall) in the 2010 draft. In his junior season at Yale, Agostino appeared in 33 games and scored 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists).
-EN Says: Robbery. Plain and simple robbery.
The Penguins get a superstar who is admittedly past his prime in change for two middling prospects and a draft pick.
For all the speculation that the Penguins might have to give up a bevy of top prospects to improve their team, the only star prospect they gave up this week was Joe Morrow in the Brenden Morrow trade. They still have Beau Bennett, Simon Despres, Derrick Pouliot, Olli Matta, Scott Harrington and others in their possesion. They did give up quite a few high-end draft picks but when you consider the return, a run at the Stanley Cup is more than worth that price.
Hanowski and Agostino are solid prospects, but they weren't even considered among the Penguins' best prospects.
Another thing to consider is the fact that the salary cap is going down this offseason. That potentially means the end of days here in Pittsburgh for Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis and Craig Adams who are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this offseason. They aren't franchise players by ay mean,s but they are significants parts of a Stanley Cup contender. This might be the Penguins' last chance to win another title with this crew. Why not go for broke?
Regarding Iginla, this is not the 2003-04 Iginla who willed the Flames to the 2003-04 Stanley Cup final. He is well past that part of his career. He is definitely a supplemental player to the likes of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That said, this isn't a scoring winger who is going to pot you 20 goals and contribute nothing else. Iginla brings a pretty diverse skill set to the Penguins. In addition to his scoring touch, Iginla will throw the body around. A pretty aggressive forechecker, Iginla should fit into the Penguins' system which relies on its forwards to pressure defenders through forechecking. And while he doesn't do it as often as he did earlier in his career, Iginla will drop the gloves to defend a teammate or change momentum in a game.
Additionally, as evidenced by his captaincy of the Flames, Iginla is roundly regarded as a high-character individual around the NHL. The Penguins added two very respected players around the NHL this week in Iginla and Brenden Morrow.
Iginla has a knack of scoring important goals as well. Only Jaromir Jagr (116) and Teemu Selanne (107) have scored more game-winning goals among active players than Iginla (83).
Regarding ice time, Iginla has average 19:17 per game this season with 3:11 of that coming on the power play. At one time in his career, Iginla used to be a regular penalty killer but he has been limited to 16 seconds of short-handed time per game this season.
Like Morrow, Iginla is pursuing his first Stanley Cup title. Both players have plenty of motivation to come to Pittsburgh.
A few highlights from Iginla's career:
How does Iginla fit into the Penguins' lineup? We're not sure there's a wrong answer. There isn't an NHL coach who isn't jealous of Dan Bylsma right now. We're not there are many arguments you could make in terms of breaking up Crosby's line with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, but Iginla definitely has to be considered. Afterall, Crosby did have a little bit of luck with Iginla on his line for two weeks in 2010:
James Neal is entrenched on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and it seems the Penguins want to give Morrow every chance to stay at the left wing on that line. Iginla doesn't have a history of playing left wing so it seems unlikely he will move to that position.
That leaves the third line with Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke. Despite a run of solid play as of late, Tyler Kennedy has not had a strong season overall. Obviously, Iginla would be a huge upgrade over Kennedy.
We're not even sure how you split the power-play time with this crew of talent.
We can only assumed Beau Bennett is the odd man out and will return to the AHL. Playing him in a fourth-line role at the NHL level wouldn't benefit him or the club.
Could you imagine being a defenseman facing the Penguins in a best-of-seven series with Iginla, Morrow, Kunitz, Cooke and others forechecking the life out of you?
Regardless of how Bylsma uses these players, the Penguins - winners of 13 consecutive games - have positioned themselves to be the hands-down favorite for the Stanley Cup. Anything short of another championship will be an absolute failure for this team.
(Photos: First-Dale MacMillan/Getty Images; Second-Mike Ridewood/Getty Images; Third-Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)